Pakistan and China on Friday inked the Framework Agreement on Industrial Cooperation under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) following Prime Minister Imran Khan's arrival in Beijing the previous day.

The prime minister is in China to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics and meet the Chinese leadership.

State Minister and Chairman Board of Investment Mohammad Azfar Ahsan and Chairman National Development & Reform Commission (NRDC) He Lifeng signed the accord.

The objective of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Industrial Cooperation is to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), promote industrialisation and development of economic zones, and initiate, plan, execute, and monitor projects, both in public as well as the private sector.

The engagement with China under JWG is envisaged to increase labour productivity in Pakistan, enhance industrial competitiveness, increase exports, and sustain diversification in the exports basket.

During the 8th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting of CPEC held in 2018, both sides had signed a Memorandum of Understanding that formed the basis for future engagements between the parties under the ambit of industrial cooperation.

As CPEC entered its second phase, which primarily revolves around the development and industrialisation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), the need for a comprehensive framework agreement became imperative.

Similar agreements have also been signed for Early Harvest CPEC Projects on energy and infrastructure.

With continuous efforts of the Board of Investment (BoI), both sides reached the consensus to elevate the existing MoU into a Framework Agreement in 2020.

After extensive stakeholder consultations and with the approval of the prime minister, BoI shared the draft framework with NDRC in November 2020, which has been formulated keeping in consideration the needs of CPEC Phase II.

The signing ceremony of the framework agreement is a significant outcome of the prime minister's visit and a top agenda from the Chinese side as a testimony to their interest in CPEC.

PM holds meetings with Chinese businessmen

Later in the day. Prime Minister Imran Khan held a series of meetings with officials from China’s leading state-owned and private companies.

According to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), the premier met with executives from China Communication Construction Company, Huazhong Technology, Zhejiang Seaport Group, Challenge Apparel, Hunan Sunwalk Group Royal Group, China Road and Bridge Corporation, Zhengbang Group and China Machinery Engineering Corporation.

"The corporate leaders briefed the prime minister on the progress of their on-going projects in Pakistan," the PMO statement said.

The Chinese businessmen showed a keen interest in expanding investment in Pakistan in projects related to recycling of metal and paper, energy, textile, fibre-optic networks, housing, dairy and water management, it said.

In his remarks, PM Imran appreciated the keen interest of the Chinese companies to invest in Pakistan.

"Highlighting deepening economic and trade ties between the two countries, he informed the Chinese corporate leaders about steps [taken] to create [a] conducive environment for Chinese investment in Pakistan and encouraged them to benefit from business friendly policies for investment in CPEC SEZs," the statement said.

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